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40 Useless Car Features Automakers Got Away With

Cameron EittreimFebruary 18, 2020

Toyota Prius CD Player
via: Toyota

11. CD Player

The audio system has come a long way in vehicles since the days of the eight-track player. But once streaming came along, the need for a CD player was over. While there’s an abundance of compact discs on the market, the odds of you owning one is slim. There are few cars that still feature a CD player. If you manage to find one, you’ll probably only use it a few times, which is why there are so few anymore.

Chevrolet HHR Media Center
via: GM

The CD player was a great part of the evolution of media you could play anywhere. For in-car entertainment, the CD player was a welcome addition to the car radio. But as digital media and streaming have evolved, the number of people who still use the CD player is going away.

VW Beetle Wing Window
via: Car Domain

10. Wing Windows

Most cars during the ’70s and ’80s had this unique feature. Wing windows are usually the third window on the front or rear of the car. This was a feature that was useless because the windows were hard to operate. You couldn’t get a lot of air through them, which was the point.

The most common wing windows were on the original Volkswagen Beetle. But this feature made its way on lots of other cars as well during this period.

VW Beetle Wing Windows
via: Car Domain

Automakers eventually moved away from wing windows because they were not conducive to the design of the cars. Wing windows don’t do anything to benefit the driver or the vehicle. They were just another useless feature that automakers tried to incorporate over time.

Car Antenna
via: Car Domain

9. Power Antennas

Most drivers remember having a broken antenna on their first car. Chances are, you probably had a power antenna that would cause issues. The power antennas on most modern vehicles nowadays are part of the reason that carmakers stopped utilizing this feature. The first problem was that it could become costly to replace the antenna if it malfunctioned. In addition to that repair, an electric antenna was just as time-consuming as dealing with other aspects of the electric system. You’d need an audio specialist to fix power antennas, so most consumers didn’t want to deal with them.

Car Antenna
via: Car ID

Power antennas didn’t do anything to benefit the vehicle. Instead, they just became a cumbersome part of car ownership. The power antenna will go down as another one of those memorable car features that drivers never used.

RX7 Pop up headlights
via: Car Domain

8. Pop-Up Headlights

No one is sure what the idea was behind pop-up headlights since they didn’t benefit cars in any way. They were expensive to replace and when they got stuck, you either had lights or you didn’t. Even so, there have been various renditions of pop-up headlights over the years. The last two modern cars that had pop-up headlights were the C5 Corvette and the Acura NSX. Most carmakers moved on from these after the ’80s.

BMW 8-Series
via: Car Domain

However, there are still pop-up diehards who swear by these headlights. But for the most part, pop-up headlights are just another feature that people equate with bad ’80s engineering.

Car ashtray
via: Bing

7. Ashtrays

Although not a common feature nowadays, there was a time when smoking was acceptable. All the top-tier cars had an ashtray. This was in addition to the built-in cigarette lighters in cars as recently as the early 2000s. Smoking used to be the norm in most parts of the world, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a car without an ashtray. This was a semi-useless feature because most drivers and passengers would just flick their ashes out of the window.

Car ashtray
via: Edmunds

This became such a fire hazard, that in many states it became illegal to just discard your ashes out a car window. But automakers still managed to incorporate this feature into their vehicles, which in the long run was something drivers didn’t need.

Hand brake in car
via: Edmunds

6. Hand Brakes

For a long time, if you had any type of sedan or coupe, there was probably a hand brake in-between the seats. What happened to this feature? Hand brakes were never anything most drivers would use. Unless you lived in an area with a large number of hills, the hand brake was just a useless feature. You just wouldn’t use them unless you were trying to do something stupid or reckless. During the next decade, teenagers would get a hold of their parent’s cars and yank on the hand brake like there was no tomorrow.

Hand brake in car
via: Edmunds

The hand brake was only useful in certain instances like with a manual transmission. Other than that, this was just a useless feature. In the long run, automakers ended up adapting different technologies, making the handbrake a useless feature.

Silverado Bench seat
via: Auto Bytel

5. Front Row Bench Seats

At one point in time, all cars could seat six passengers. The sedan was known as the family sedan, long before the minivan or crossovers were even a thought. Because of this, most sedans had what’s called a bench seat, a feature that you just don’t see anymore. The last modern cars to have a bench seat was the Lincoln Towncar and the Chevrolet Impala. Otherwise, this feature is been all but gone. Consumers don’t want to pack the whole family into a sedan anymore so you don’t see the bench seat.

Ram bench seat
via: Auto Bytel

It’s a cool feature to have in a retro car, but you’ll never see a bench seat in a modern vehicle. It was just an outdated feature that people never tended to use.

sealed beam headlights
via: Hot Rod

4. Sealed-Beam Headlights

Early in the evolution of the automobile, there were various aspects of the car that most people find familiar. Old-school rounded headlights were a feature most automobile owners would come across. This was because the headlights were easy to replace. But as time went on, most automakers wanted to find different ways to make the exterior look a lot smoother. Soon, sealed beam headlights were born, becoming a feature on most cars.

Sealed beam headlights
via: Auto Bytel

It’s not that sealed beam headlights were bad, but it was a useless feature that didn’t benefit the car. Automakers have since moved onto different ways of designing headlights. Today, early sealed beam headlights are a thing of the past.

Digital Gauges
via: Youtube

3. Digital Gauges

During the ’80s and the early ’90s, most automakers were trying to make vehicles that were more advanced due to the rise in technology. However, digital gauges on vehicles like the Chevrolet Corvette and Chrysler Lebaron were far too complicated. There was a lot of information on the dashboard drivers just wouldn’t use.

Even though the automakers knew that they continued to use these dashboards. Eventually, the analog dashboard was the norm on most vehicles until the next generation of cars hit.

Digital gauges
via: Youtube

Nowadays, most of your vehicle’s information is digital, which is a far cry from the lackluster digital dashes of the past. This was just a feature that most drivers never ended up using that was expensive to repair.

GM DRLS
via: GM

2. Automatic Lighting

Perhaps one of the most useless and sometimes dangerous features on automobiles was automatic lighting. This was something that you can find on cars toward the end of the ’90s and into the new millennium. The problem with automatic lighting was that most drivers would end up not paying attention to their cars.

Many drivers would assume that the headlights were on when they weren’t. This made it dangerous to drive at night and the visibility of the vehicles much lower.

Silverado DRLS
via: Car Domain

Automated lighting has changed a lot in the past few decades, but it’s still a useless feature. The more that cars are automated, the less attention drivers pay to the road.

Cadillac Eldorado
via: Car Domain

1. Cylinder Cut-Off

During the ’80s when the gas crisis was happening, many automakers including GM decided to start experimenting with cylinder deactivation. This was still a new technology, so most computers were not advanced enough, which caused a lot of frustration. The technology was especially bad for Cadillac because the Fleetwood in the repair shop more than it was on the road. The same thing happened during the 2000s when GM and Chrysler begin to experiment with the technology again. However, the fuel economy was not better. Cylinder cut-off caused was a lot of headaches for those mechanics who were unfamiliar with the technology.

Cadillac Eldorado
via: Car Domain

The cylinder deactivation of the past couple of decades was a useless attempt to increase fuel economy. It’s just not something that works on a vehicle that weighs quite a few tons and has a powerful V8 motor.

These are 25 useless car features automakers got away with for decades. If you’ve ever had to deal with any of them, you’re probably glad they are long gone. Some were useful at the time, but became obsolete with emerging technologies, while others were just plain bad from the get-go.

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